Seoul – Where to Stay and How to get around

Seoul has a little something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a lifelong lover of K-pop and K-drama. The city is one of the biggest in the world, so when it comes to where to stay in Seoul, it depends on what you are going to see and do in your itinerary.

Each Seoul neighborhood has a different vibe and accessibility popular activities. Hongdae, Myeongdong, and Gangnam are some of the most famous Seoul neighborhoods, but Itaewon, Insadong, and Dongdaemun have their own attractions around which to plan your perfect Seoul itinerary.

Where to Stay

Here’s the curated six Seoul’s neighbourhood which can makes the best stay:

Myeongdong – a hub of modern Korean culture close and located between Insadong and Namsan Mountain. Myeongdong is Korea’s skincare shopping mecca. Neon lines the streets and food stalls waft their smells along the pedestrianized paths in this bustling neighborhood, a complete contrast to the historic center. If you are looking for hustle and bustle and great shopping this is the place to stay in Seoul.

Insadong – in the heart of Seoul, close to most major attractions. As the unofficial art district, Insadong is a great place to start getting a feel for Korean culture, with plenty of traditional architecture and handicraft shops among the new and shiny franchises. The place is also abundant with cool independent cafés and teahouses to relax in between sightseeing.

Hongdae – a bustling university neighborhood known for its bars and restaurants. Home to Hongik University, the Hongdae area is a great place to experience a more local side to the city and is famous for its nightlife. For shopping, eating, and drinking, it rivals Myeongdong and is often cheaper. On top of that, it’s one of the edgiest and individual places in the whole country and the neighborhood of quite a liberal-minded arts University.

Gangnam – Made famous by the catchy Psy song, Gangnam is one of Seoul’s financial hubs and the center of the gargantuan KPOP industry. Translated as South of the river, Gangnam is a little further afield than the other neighborhoods on this list, and it certainly feels different. Full of high-rises and shopping malls, this area is not for everyone and has prices to match. However, it is also home to plenty of incredible food and provides a fascinating insight into parts of Korean culture. If you are into living the high life and love the nightclub culture this is where to stay in Seoul.

Dongdaemun – If you’re into shopping, the eye-catcher is undoubtedly the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Inside the futuristic building are some designer shops. Around the Design Plaza is where most of the shopping action is going on. Dongdaemun houses 26 shopping malls, some of which are open 24/7 and these shops are selling anything from mid-range to expensive clothes, shoes, and accessories.

Itaewon – If you are into Seoul’s nightlife. This district has numerous good pubs and other nightlife options. It is also a hotspot for foreigners and expats who want the ease of having most things available in English, and the location along the subway line smack dab in central Seoul.

How to get around

1. Buy a local sim card – You can either insert it to your mobile phone or to your personal wifi device. You can conveniently purchase your sim card here and pick it up at the airport when you arrive.

2. Get a T-Money card to access Seoul public transport. It’s a stored money card that can be recharged and used between buses, trains, and subways in Korea. You can purchase this T-Money card from convenience stores such as GS25, 7-Eleven, and CU, T-Money payment terminals at subway stations. If you want to get your T-Money card right after landing at Incheon International Airport, you can go to a CU grocery store near Gates 5 and 10 in the Landing area.

3. Download the “Subway Korea” app on your phone which will give you updated train times and routes.

4. Download the “Naver Map” app for directions. In South Korea, Google Map function is somewhat limited. It cannot give you detail direction from one place to another using car/walking/public transport, so you need to use Naver Map. Naver Map can show you detail directions including the fastest routes to all the Seoul attractions using car, bus, and subway.

5. Seoul has a Discover Seoul Pass is Seoul’s “free pass” available for 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours where you can access to 65 Seoul attractions and can also be used as a T-Money card allowing you to use public transport in Seoul. If you’re planning a packed agenda to visit all the top attractions it could be affordable but if not you can skip the pass.

6. Taking a taxi in Korea is also very convenient for international visitors, with an increasing number of taxi drivers being able to speak English. Taxis can be found at taxi stands in most busy city areas or hailed on the streets. You can also request Taxi by phone call or mobile application. All taxis in Seoul use the same fare calculation of increase by time and distance traveled.

How to get to Seoul Center from Incheon Airport

1. Train

The Airport Railroad Express (AREX) provides two different trains from Incheon International (ICN) airport to Seoul; the Express Train and the All Stop train. The Express train runs directly from Incheon airport to Seoul in just 40 minutes and costs 9,500 won. The All Stop train stops at different stations along the way until it reaches Seoul Station, including Myeongdong, Hongdae and Itaewon. The total journey time for this train is 60 minutes and tickets cost 4,150 won.

2. Seoul Incheon Airport Bus

Airport Bus runs from 05.05 to 23.20 and leaves every 25 minutes from Terminal 1 and 2. There are two types of Bus:

  • Deluxe Limousine Bus: Cost 14,000 – 16,000 won for a single ride, does fewer stops so it is faster than the Standard bus. It operates non-stops routes to major hotels and further destinations within the country.
  • Standard Limousine Bus: a cheaper option, cost 9,000 – 10,000 won for a single ride, but crowded and it stops more often than the Deluxe Limousine Bus (journey time around 70 minutes). By taking this bus, you’ll have a bigger chance to get closer to your destination.

You can purchase your tickets from the ticket offices in Terminal 1, close to Exit 4 and 9 (Arrivals Hall), first level (indoor) and offices close to 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13 and 9C exit doors (outdoors). For Terminal 2, the ticketing offices located in the Traffic Center (B1).

3. Taxi

Taking a Seoul airport taxi is the most convenient transfer options as they are available 24/7 and will take you door-to-door. The total journey time will be around 60 minutes, depending on traffic, and will cost around 44,000 won based on a taximeter (there is no fixed rate). Airport Taxis don’t have a set rate fee for the journey to Seoul. Instead, they use a taximeter based on the distance to calculate their fare. If you choose to take the Incheon International Airport Expressway to Seoul, there will be an added toll charge of 7,900 won and if you are traveling late at night 24:00-04:00, there will be a 20% fare increase. The standard Incheon airport taxis can be found at the taxi rank located on the first floor of the passenger Terminal between platforms 4D and 7C.

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